Last year, the world of women’s hockey revolved around Alex Carpenter. This season, 2015-16, it would be a good bet to expect more of the same—Carpenter sure does.
While many Boston College seniors are spending their bittersweet final year on campus scrambling to figure out what they’ll be doing after graduation, Carpenter is in a very different situation. With all due respect to the good people at the Career Center, she’s one of the only seniors on campus whose resume doesn’t need to be beefed up at all.
Her bio is unmatched: Hockey East All-Star, All-American, NCAA scoring leader, Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Olympic Silver medalist, and two-time IIHF World Women’s Champion.
It looked pretty darn good to the New York Riveters, who selected Carpenter with the first overall pick in the inaugural National Women’s Hockey League draft.
“It was great timing,” Carpenter said. “I happened to be a junior and I happened to have one of my best years last year, so that worked out nicely.”
Carpenter’s ascent to the apex of her sport has been well documented. Anyone who follows the game has heard her long list of accomplishments in international play, which she has brought back to BC. Thanks to that experience, her influence on the team has gone much further than goals and assists.
“I think I learned a lot playing in the Olympics and World Championships about being a leader,” Carpenter said. “I’ve had some great captains in my time with USA hockey and I think bringing that back here to help the freshmen and underclassmen, that’s one of the most important things that I’ve learned.”
Carpenter’s impact was obvious last season, as she took an already-strong team and made it close to unstoppable. In the 2013-14 season, while Carpenter was busy winning the silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, the Eagles managed a 27-7-3 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
One year later, despite losing six seniors, the team made it all the way to the Frozen Four, and finished with a 34-3-2 record. Much of the team’s increased success can be credited directly to Carpenter, who scored 81 points in 37 games and won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s best player.
While the stats are certainly impressive, the leadership Carpenter gained from international play made the biggest difference. With star mentors including Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, and the Lamoureux sisters, Carpenter learned how to play without being the sole center of attention.
This devotion to a team-first attitude and love for the game is what has made Carpenter so valuable, especially to the Eagles’ underclassmen. Further, it has led to Carpenter being named one of the team’s captains for the 2014-15 season.
Aside from her many mentors in international play, Carpenter attributes much of her success in hockey to her father.
“My dad, he’s at every game he can make,” Carpenter said. “He’s been there ever since I started skating and he knows the little things about hockey that not many people do. I look to him for guidance.”
Alex’s father, Bobby, was one of the first highly-touted American prospects in NHL history. He was the first American drafted in the first round in NHL history, as well as the first player to be chosen directly out of high school. As a pro, he played 18 seasons in the NHL, earning an all-star nod, scoring 728 points, and winning two Stanley Cups. He even added a third cup as an assistant coach.
While his guidance has undoubtedly helped Carpenter so far, there’s still one huge hurdle to clear—winning a national championship. This season is all about unfinished business for Carpenter and the Eagles. For a team that went 34-3-2, there’s a whole lot of motivation coming into the new season. To most, a Frozen Four appearance coupled with that record would be viewed as a dream season, but not so for Carpenter. Winning regular season games was nice, but losing in the Beanpot Championship, Hockey East Championship, and Frozen Four has left a sour taste in her mouth and motivated her to have an even better 2015-16 season.
With winning in mind, don’t bother asking Carpenter about individual success. It’s all about getting better as a team.
So is it championship or bust this season for the Eagles? It’s a simple answer.
“Yeah,” Carpenter said with no sign of hesitation.
She has won just about everything else already. That one final hurdle, though, is one that motivates Carpenter to not only follow up her record-setting season, but to eclipse it.
“For a lot of us, it’s our last season here, so we’re looking to build off of last year but at the same time take things from last year,” she said. “So it’s kind of integrating last year’s [success] and moving forward with that.”
For a team with an .897 win percentage, it is hard to find an area with a glaring need for improvement on paper. After all, the team did finish at or near the top in almost every major category last season. Carpenter, however, thinks there’s plenty to improve upon, starting with special teams.
“I think the one thing that really sticks out is our power play,” Carpenter said. “It hasn’t been too good for the past year, so I think that’s one of the things we need to work on for this year.”
As a player who receives top minutes on the power play unit, Carpenter wants more production out of herself and her teammates. Last season, the group ranked 17th in the nation, which wasn’t good enough in Carpenter’s eyes for a team so focused on winning it all.
If the power play unit does improve, it should be very difficult to slow down Carpenter and the Eagles this winter, but to Carpenter, something else will be the biggest challenge for the team facing astronomical expectations.
“I think the expectations that are on us are hard to live up to, but I think we can do it for sure,” Carpenter said.
With such a combination of skill, leadership, and determination, good luck to anyone trying to stop Carpenter from living up to the expectations this season. They’ll need it.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Staff